Many people decide to go on a diet to lose weight. There are many diets available for everyone, whether through the internet, social media, health centers, etc.
In addition, these diets are of all kinds: lose weight, gain muscle, define yourself, reduce sugar levels …
But what happens when an obsession with low calorie diets appears? That then we can be ahead a case of permarexy. What is this disorder? What are your symptoms, causes and treatments? We will answer all these questions through the following article.
Permarexia: what is it?
We talked about going on a certain diet … A priori, following a diet should not be something dangerous or pathological, but … what happens when going on certain diets becomes the central axis of our life and our biggest concern is losing weight and being in control of everything we eat? Let us no longer speak of a more or less healthy habit, but of a psychological disorder called permarexia.
Thus, permarexia is an eating disorder, which is characterized mainly by an obsession with weight loss diets and with counting compulsively ingested calories. Permarexy is classified as an “unspecified eating disorder” in reference diagnostic manuals (as is DSM-5).
This way, the diets followed by a person with permarexia are low calorie dietsIn other words, low in calories, in order to lose weight constantly. The patient compensates for this unhealthy fear of gaining weight by practicing this type of diet, which he follows strictly and obsessively.
Following these diets comes in addition to constant scrutiny of the labels of the products you are going to eat, for that great fear of taking in too many calories, which you want to avoid at all costs.
Permarexy is actually a disorder that may be the antechamber of other even more serious eating disorders (ADD) such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa. In addition to these last two disorders, other serious behaviors can be added, such as: intense physical exercise, compensatory behaviors (use of laxatives, self-induced vomiting …), etc.
There are key symptoms for detecting permarexy; thus, experts talk about some of them, and say that when a person changes their diet more than three times in a period of two to four months, there is added a constant worry of weighing themselves and noting the results. , already an obsession with explaining the calories of what he buys and ingests, this person is at risk of suffering from permarexia.
But let’s take a closer look at the most typical symptoms of permarexia:
1. Obsession with calories ingested
People with permarexia are obsessed with the calories they eat. This results in the fact that the patient compulsively counts the number of calories they ingest with each food or product, And what kind. To do this, it is not a matter of looking at the tags, but of examining them directly and analyzing them in detail.
2. Follow fad diets
Another symptom of people with permarexia is the constant monitoring of fad diets for weight loss.
3. Deprivation of certain types of food
By constantly following diets, people suffering from permarexia are deprived of certain foods necessary for the proper functioning of the body in all respects. These foods can contain essential vitamins or proteins that are lost with this type of low calorie diet., Which very negatively affects your health.
4. Influence of weight on self-esteem and mood
Another major symptom of permarexia is that people who suffer from it are subject to both their mood and self-esteem, weight and physical appearance. In other words, that is to say They “measure” their well-being, happiness and self-esteem through their weight and body shape..
This, of course, on the psychological level is a great prejudice for the person, because he feeds on external things to value something purely internal.
5. Oscillations of body weight
Another symptom of permarexy is the appearance of oscillations in body weight. Thus, even if these are people who try by all means to follow the strict diets to which they are subjected, they experience variations in their weight, which affects them very negatively in health mentally and physically, because if they have taken some extra pounds. feel very bad.
6. Consumption of slimming products
In addition to following low-calorie diets, in order to lose weight and stay lean, people with permarexia also consume products of different types to achieve its goal: slimming products, vitamins, diuretics …
Like most psychological disorders, permarexy often has a multifactorial cause. In other words, that is to say there are several factors that influence its appearance. Some of the most common (which in turn shape the characteristics of a person with permarexia) are.
1. Low self-esteem
Low self-esteem is the root of many eating disorders. In turn, this low self-esteem can be caused by many other factors.
People with permarexia, as we have seen, tend to value themselves based on their weight and how their body is / is physically, which ends up undermining their self-esteem further, turn this situation into a vicious circle.
2. Body dissatisfaction
Another cause of permarexia is dissatisfaction with the body itself. This, in turn, it can be influenced by the current stereotype of beauty in society, Which rewards thinness – in many extreme cases – adds to a generalized obsession with the cult of the body and its display, etc.
3. Emotional instability
The profile of a person with permarexia is often that of an emotionally unstable person, who needs to “control” this instability through actions such as: following a very strict diet, analyzing the calories he consumes, etc. Emotional instability also often translated as “neuroticism”.
4. Obsessive traits
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is also one of the causes of people with permarexia (we insist, always added to other causes). In other words, the typical profile of these people is that of equally obsessive people, who they have to control many aspects of their life to feel “at peace”.
5. Great importance given to the opinions of others
Finally, another cause of permarexia is overemphasizing the opinions of others when evaluating oneself.
This is directly related to the already mentioned low self-esteem. Thus, they are often insecure people who constantly “have to” love, as well as the approval of others.
In the treatment indicated to treat permarexia, logically, it must be evaluated and adapted to each particular case. At the psychological level, irrational thoughts associated with the body and the importance of being slim will need to be worked on.
Thus, one of the objectives will be to increase the patient’s self-esteem, as well as to analyze his coping strategies when solving problems. Once the strategies have been analyzed, work will be done to ensure that the patient acquires healthier and more adaptive coping strategies.
On another side, it will also be essential to work on your obsessive traits and finally the whole more emotional sphere which influences the maintenance of the disorder.
For all this, we can opt for cognitive behavioral therapy, because it is one of the most effective to work on coping strategies, irrational thoughts, healthy habits, etc. However, other orientations can also be used, such as systemic therapy.
Finally, stress that psychological treatment should always be done with the support of a nutritionist to help regulate and adapt the dietary guidelines and diet followed by the patient.
- American Psychiatric Association -APA- (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
- Belloch, A., Sandón, B. and Ramos, F. (2010). Manual of psychopathology. Volumes I and II. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.
- Sabater, MI (2018). Influence of social media on eating disorders: a review of the literature. University schools of Gimbernat.